There are a wide range of establishments in the UK with auditoria from universities with multiple lecture theatres to independent cinemas with one screen. Whether it is a venue for education or entertainment, the majority of these facilities will have a fixed seating installation which will be subject to high frequency traffic.
The type of fixed seating used in auditoria is designed to be robust and hard-wearing yet comfortable to sit in for several hours. Seats and backs are usually deeply cushioned and upholstered and are supported by sturdy metal frames.
Auditorium seating is a high-value, long-term purchase designed to provide decades of service before it might need replacing. However, with continual usage over a long period of time, seating upholstery will eventually start to show signs of wear and tear.
A great thing about fixed seating in auditoria is that when wear or damage occurs, it is usually possible to have it refurbished rather than replacing it completely. Obviously, there will sometimes be scenarios when refurbishment is not an option but in venues where the seat frames are still going strong and the overall seat design is still fit for purpose then it is definitely worth considering.
Vintage Fixed Seating
In historical venues such as Victorian theatres, for example, you can often find the original seating still in situ having undergone various levels of refurbishment over the years. This type of vintage seating often features period detailing such as ornate metal castings which due to their nature and age can suffer from accidental damage and decay.
Despite this, the overall frame structures are usually still strong and stable, and it is often possible to create new metal castings to replace any that are damaged. It is not uncommon for seats over 100 years old to be suitable for refurbishment and many theatre and cinema venues with vintage fixed seating choose this option in order to maintain the heritage of their building and the ever popular vintage style that goes hand in hand with this.
Modern Fixed Seating
Whilst theatres and cinemas are the types of venues most likely to have vintage seating, many of course are fitted with more modern seats, as are lecture theatres, conference venues and other auditoria.
There are certain styles of ‘modern’ seating which may no longer be fit for purpose as they could now look dated or old fashioned rather than having sought after vintage style, or they may not provide sufficient space or comfort. In these cases, replacement is often the only option if establishments are to provide their patrons with the high-quality facilities they expect.
However, for those establishments that are still happy with the design and features of their seating then refurbishment could be an ideal solution when seats start to become worn.
Regardless of the age of the fixed seating, in addition to natural deterioration there is also a small risk of malicious damage such as the occasional torn seat or graffiti which needs to be monitored and repaired.
Keep a Record
If you do decide to commission a new seating installation rather than opt for refurbishment then it is advisable to keep a record of the manufacturer/supplier and the details of the seat type and upholstery fabric in case you or your successor needs to organise refurbishment of any seats in the future. Similarly, if you are having seating refurbished in a different fabric or colour then keep a note of this for future reference.
As in any company, systems and staff change over time and in 10 or 20 years’ time your seating supplier may no longer have a record of the fabric used on your seats.
Why Choose Refurbishment?
In most cases refurbishment will be a cheaper option than replacement seating. This is because it is generally just the seats, backs and arms that require refurbishment work. Seat frames rarely need replacing and often only require a light sand and re-paint or even just a clean.
With most types of fixed seating in auditoria it is usually possible to refurbish just those parts which require attention. This is clearly of great benefit to establishments with a limited budget and is a good reason why it is wise to keep note of the specific fabric used on the seats.
Whether you choose to refurbish all the fixed seating in your auditorium or to identify and refurbish only those components with noticeable wear and tear, there are various options when it comes to the refurbishment services on offer.
Range of Refurbishment Services for Fixed Seating in Auditoria
The basic level of reupholstery involves stripping the existing fabric and recovering with new. Where only certain components are being renovated then your supplier would need to source the same fabric and colourway as existing or a very close match. If you are refurbishing all of the seats in your auditorium then you can obviously choose a completely different fabric or colour if preferred.
With prolonged usage, seat and back foams can eventually start to sag. How long it takes before this occurs can vary greatly. It is common for replacement foams to be fitted as part of fixed seating refurbishment and this is something that would need to be assessed on an individual project basis. Foams can also suffer damage where they have been exposed through threadbare seats or arms.
Some types of auditorium seating feature exposed wooden panels on the back and/or underneath the seat. As part of the refurbishment process this can either be removed, sanded and re-polished/re-painted, or it can be upholstered over to give your seating a different look. In contrast, many vintage seats might have had traditional wooden detailing previously covered over and you may now want to uncover this and make a feature of it.
As the most robust part of the seat structure, metalwork stands the test of time and any refurbishment work is usually just cosmetic. Seat frames often do not require any attention at all and can simply be left in situ whilst other seating components are removed for refurbishment. Frames which are looking weathered can be sanded and repainted to freshen them up.
Where traditional seats feature metal castings, it is possible to replicate these if they are damaged. Once painted reproduction castings look exactly like the originals and help venues retain their original style.
Below are some examples of the different elements of fixed seating refurbishment in auditoria.
Period detailing on seat backs was hidden under wooden panels for decades but was uncovered and renovated during the refurbishment process.
A change from blue to purple upholstery fabric changed the whole look of this auditorium, wooden arms were upholstered and all exposed wood was sanded and polished.
Before refurbishment metalwork was looking tired and flaky, arms were threadbare and painted seat boards were suffering from severe wear and tear. These seats were totally transformed with a rich red velvet fabric which covered the whole seat whilst metalwork was sanded and repainted.
A new metal casting was made to replicate a traditional style.
Get a Quote
If you want to look at the option of refurbishing your existing seats but are unsure whether it’s possible, speak to potential suppliers who are offering these services. If you send them photographs of your seats they can usually give a good indication of what might be required and provide a quotation.
As a seating manufacturer with close to 90 years’ experience, Evertaut offers a full range of refurbishment services and has worked with establishments across the UK to help revive their auditoria.
The Refurbishment Process
If you decide that refurbishment is the route you want to take your supplier will usually come to your venue to remove all the parts that are to be attended to. This could just be the seat and back or the entire seating structure.
For establishments where the auditorium needs to remain in use it is possible to carry out refurbishment works in stages so that a block of seating at a time is dealt with. This obviously does incur additional costs however due to the number of visits that will be required. If budget is an issue then you can keep costs down by removing and/or refitting the seating components yourself.
Once removed, your supplier will take all components back to their premises where they will carry out the required refurbishment works before returning to refit everything. Following refurbishment your auditorium seating should look as good as new and provide many years of service before it requires any further attention.
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